Gareth Southgate: Switch from midfield to defence

England Under-21s boss Gareth Southgate on swapping the midfield engine room for the heart of the defence

“I’ve just started playing as a centre-back after years playing in the middle. Any tips?”
Marlon Matthews, via email

More after the break

Gareth Southgate says:

“When I played in midfield I wasn’t great at receiving the ball on the half-turn or having that vision you need as a midfielder.

For that reason the switch to defence was a natural one. You rely on different skills as a centre-back: one big advantage is that you can see the whole pitch so you have to take more responsibility for organising the team in front of you.

Playing in midfield, you get used to being on the ball, so you can take this into your new role. Be the one to bring the ball out and start attacks; this is especially handy when your team is struggling to find space in midfield.

For any midfielder turned defender, you must be aware of positioning. Looking down the line and making sure everyone’s holding their position takes practice.

You don’t want to be the one playing everyone onside, so communication is key. Make sure you’re always listening to what your team-mates are saying, so that when they say to push up, you’re ready.”

For more football tips see:
Sylvain Distin: Dominate your opponent
Franco Baresi: How to defend like a master
Chris Smalling: How to be the complete defender
Rio Ferdinand: The thinking man's guide to defending
Ashley Cole: How to handle every opponent

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